Looking for more freedom
|Title:||Looking for more freedom|
|Author:||The Journal Editorial Board|
|Publication:||Rapid City Journal|
Looking for more freedomby The Journal Editorial Board 06/18/03
Wanted: One freedom-loving state where jobs are plentiful, taxes are low, government is small, laws are few and individual liberty is appreciated.
How: 20,000 people pledge to move to a single state where their numbers can affect elections and change local and state laws to reduce taxes, remove regulations and close government bureaucracies.
Where: A state with less than 1.5 million people and which spends less than $10 million in election campaigns - Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, or Wyoming.
When: As soon as 5,000 people sign up, an election will be held to choose the state where, hopefully, 20,000 liberty-seeking individuals and their families will move and, using legal, peaceful means, transform it into a libertarian utopia.
The Free State Project is the brainchild of Jason Sorens, a resident of Asheville, N.C., with a doctorate in political science from Yale University. It's not affiliated with the Libertarian Party, but its goals are similar to those espoused by most Libertarians: abolition of income taxes, elimination of regulatory bureaucracies, repeal of most gun control laws, repeal of most drug prohibition laws, free trade, decentralized government, and privatization of most services.
Sorens said the project is meant to put into practice the ideals of free markets and individual liberties and a government whose only function is to protect citizens' rights to life, liberty and property. There are many people in the United State who believe in the same ideals, Sorens said, but not in enough numbers to achieve political success. By getting 20,000 people to move to one area of the country, Sorens hopes that will translate into political success at the local and state level where Free Staters can effect change. The chosen Free State then will become a model to other states of the benefits of small government and maximum individual liberty.
The Free State Project has researched the candidate states and ranked them according to specific criteria (www.freestateproject.org). Of the 10 states, South Dakota ranked seventh, with neighboring states Wyoming first, North Dakota eighth, and Montana ninth. In the most important category, number of voters, Wyoming was first (meaning fewest voters) and South Dakota fifth. Dependence on government was the second-highest category, and Wyoming came in fourth (less federal dollars was good) and South Dakota seventh. In election spending, Wyoming was third (cheap elections are better), South Dakota ninth; and in job potential, South Dakota was fourth and Wyoming eighth. South Dakota scored higher among the 10 states in percentage of union teachers (fewer the better), state land planning (none), Small Business Survivability Index, and violent crime rate; it scored lower in coastline (none), foreign border (none), federal land (more federal land equaling more resentment of government), and marijuana (illegal).
As of June 12, 4,087 people had signed up for the Free State Project; Sorens predicted a vote to choose the project's state in September or October and a move to the chosen state by 20,000 Free Staters possibly by 2005, although he calls pulling off the whole idea a 50-50 probability.
Bob Newland of Hermosa is one of the pledge signers. Newland, the South Dakota Libertarian Party's 2002 candidate for attorney general, said he'd prefer that South Dakota becomes the chosen state, because "I wouldn't have to move." He said more people are objecting to government expanding into their lives, but that the Free State Project will be difficult to carry out. "Many people have beefs against specific government actions, but they're fragmented by government pandering to them on other issues," he said.
In theory, the Free State Project is intriguing. In practice, could it succeed? Even in a small state such as South Dakota, 20,000 new voters is only 5.9 percent of the 340,407 ballots cast in the 2002 election.
The biggest hurdle to the Free State Project is the belief by most Americans that they already are free from government meddling, and to the extent that government does intrude, it's not perceived as overreaching. Despite the hysterical claims by some people (not necessarily Libertarians), the U.S. is not a police state, and Americans are among the freest people on Earth. Even we would agree that government, especially on the federal level, is too large and tries to do too much, but when we look around at the alternatives in other countries - even other U.S. states - we've got to admit that freedom and liberty works pretty well, and there's more of it here already than anywhere else.
These media articles are maintained on a non-commercial basis by The Free State Project, a non-profit organization, for historical, educational, scholarship, and research purposes. (For information regarding "Fair Use", see US Code Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 107).